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improved Agro-techniques on organic Cultivation of Large Cardamom

  • Spices Board (Ministry of Commerce & Industry Govt. of India)
  • Indian Cardamom Research Institute


Technological advancement in organic production of large cardamom
Floriculture for Rural and Urban Prosperity
in the Scenario of Climate Change
Pakyong Sikkim
University DH & CCD
Govt. of Sikkim ISOH
New Delhi
February 16-18,2018
&h PPV & FRA
Ny'inistry of DoNER
Venue: Auditorium CAU - GAE & PHT, Ranipool - Sikkim
D. R. Singh
L. C. De
\II --rJ
Gangtok, Sikkim
Laxuman Sharma
A. Loyanganba Meitei
National Conference on Floriculture for Rural and Urban Prosperity in the Scenario of Climate Change-2018
lmproued Agro-techniques on 0rganic Gultivation of Large
K. Dhanapalt, B.A. Gudadet, Ashutosh Gautaml, S.S Borat, A.B Remashree2 and R. Chhetrit
rlndian Cardamom Research lnstitute- Regional Research Station, Tadong (Sikkim) 737 lO2
Large Cardamom is one of the costliest spices, a member of the family, Zingiberaceae under the order Sci-
taminae. The large cardamom is a perennial herb with subterranean rhizomes with leafy shoots and has a
sciophytic nature. Large cardamom grows well in temperate climate and hilly terrain (900-2000 aMSL) and
widely cultivated in the state of Sikkim, Da4'eeling district of West Bengal and parts ofArunachal Pradesh,
Nagaland and Uttarakhand. In this article the agro-techniques for organic cultivation of large cardamom
have been discussed extensively right from seedling to final produce.
Key words: Large Cardamom, Propagation, Varieties, Curing.
Large cardamom (Amomum subulatum Roxb.),
a member of the family, Zinglberaceae under the
order Scitaminae is the main cash crop cultivated in
the sub-Himalayan state of Sikkim and Darjeeling
district of West Bengal. It is also cultivated in parts
of Uttarakhand and in some other North Eastern Hill
states like Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Mizoram,
Manipur, Meghalaya and Assam. Nepal and Bhutan
are the other two Himalayan countries where large
cardamom is cultivated. Sikkim is the largest producer
of large cardamom and constitute lion share of Indian
and world market.
The large cardamom plant is a perennial herb
with subterranean rhizomes with leafy shoots. Stem
is a pseudo stem which is called tiller. Inflorescence
is spike. Generally, 30 to 40 flowers are observed in
a spike. Flowers are yellow, bisexual, zygomorphic
& pollinated by bumble bees. There are three petals
with a labellum which is mainly for attracting insects
for pollination. Stamens possess filament and anther.
Anthesis occurs in the morning hours. Ovary inferior
with ol,ules in axile placentation, stigma funnel
shaped, fruit is capsule, achinated, maroon in colour
with seeds which are whitish in immature stage and
darkbrown to black in mature stage.
Large cardamom is used as a spice and also in
several Ayurvedic preparations. It contains 2-370
essential oils, possesses carnative, stomachic, diuretic
and cardiac stimulant properties and is also a remedy
for throat and respiratory trouble.
Crop varieties
There are mainly six popular cultivars of large
cardamom viz., Ramsey, Ramla, Sawney, Varlangey,
Seremna and Dzongu Golsey.
Ramsey: It is well suited to high altitudes (1515
m amsl) meters above mean sea level) and can
be cultivated even in steep slopes. The cultivar is
identified by the maroonish colour of the tiller and
narrow leaves. Plants are 1.5 to 2.0 meters tall, robust
with large number of tillers. Flowering starts in May
and crop is ready for harvest by October - November.
Capsules are smaller in size with 25 - 40 seeds.
Ramla: Plants are 1.5 to 2 meters tall andvigorous
like Ramsey. Colour oftillers resembles that ofRamsey
and the leaves are broad and long, capsules are dark
pinkish in colour with 30 - 40 seeds. Cultivation is
restricted to few high-altitude areas in North Sikkim.
Flowering commences in May and the crop is generally
ready for harvest in October.
Sawney: It is a widely adapted cultivar, which is
most suited to medium (975 - 1515 m amsl) andhigh
(> 1515 m amsl) altitude areas. Plants are 1.5 to 2.0
meters tall, robust in nature, leaves are ovate and broad
and the colour of tiller is similar to Ramsey. Capsules
are bigger and bold with 35 - 50 seeds. Flowering starts
from March to June and harvest begins in September -
October, sometimes extends up to November in high
altitude areas.
Varlangey: It is found to grow in mid and high
altitude (> 1515 m amsl) areas. Its yield performance is
exceptionally high at high altitudes. Plant height is 1.5
- 2.5 meters, robust tpe and resembles Ramsey with
narrow leaves having wavy margins. The productive
tiller and spike ratio is relatively high in this cultivar.
Capsules are bold with 50 - 70 seeds. Flowering starts
in May at medium altitudes and during |une - |uly at
National Conference on Floriculture for Rural and Urban Prosperity in the Scenario o{ Climate Change-20.18
high altitudes. Consequently, harvesting is delayed up
to the end of November in high altitudes.
Seremna: The cultivar is grown in a small pocket
of the Hee-Gaon, West Sikkim at low altitude and is
known for its high yield potential. Plants are 1.5 to
2.0 meters tall, tillers are green and leaves are mostly
drooping tpe, hence named as 'seremna'. On an
average 2 - 3 spikes in each productive tiller with
average 10 capsules in each spike and 65 - 70 seeds per
capsules are recorded.
Dzongu Golsey: It is suitable to areas below 975
m amsl and is very specific in Dzongu area of North
Sikkim. The plant height is 1.0 to 1.5 meters and not
as robust like other cultivars. Unlike Ramsey and
Sawney, the tillers are green in colour and the leaves
are narrow and erect. Capsules are big and bold and
contain 50 - 70 seeds. Flowering starts in March and
harvesting is done in September - October.
High yielding released varieties: There are two
high yielding varieties released by Indian Cardamom
Research Institute in the year 2004 for cultivation in
Sikkim and Darjeeling. The following are the various
features of these varieties.
ICRI Sikkim -2
Cultivar Selection from Selection from
Morphology Robust in nature Robust in nature
collected from very productive plants due to cross-
pollination. The major pollinator is bumble bees,
even though honey bees also play a role in pollination.
On the other hand, planting through suckers ensures
true to the parents with a high productivity if they are
collected from high yielding, disease free plants.
Propagation through seeds
Seeds are collected from high yielding and well-
maintained plantation free from diseases. Well
matured capsules from bottom and middle position
ofthe spikes are selected for extraction ofseeds. After
de-husking, seeds are mixed and rubbed with sand
and then washed with water to remove the mucilage
completely. Once the water is completely drained, the
seeds are mixed with wood ash, dried in shade and
sown in the primary nursery.
In another method, seeds are treated with 25o/o
Nitric acid (HNO3) after removing the mucilage
(25 ml of concentrated Nitric acid is mixed with 75
ml of water to make 25o/o Nitric acid). Seeds may
completely be immersed in the acid and stirred well
for 10 minutes. Excess acid is drained out. Seeds are
then washed thoroughly in running water to make it
free from acid. Normally, germination percentage is
only 20 -30%. However, seeds treated with Nitric acid
(25o/o) and soaked in GA, (Gibberellic acid, 10 ppm)
gives 60%o germination even after 60 days of extraction
Primary Nursery: Seeds are generally sown
in September - October. Seed beds are prepared in
well drained soil dug to a depth of 30 cm and left for
weathering. Raised beds with 15 to 25 cm height, 1
m width and convenient length, preferably 6 m, are
prepared. Well decomposed cattle manure is mixed
with the soil and the surface of the bed is made to fine
tilth. About 80 - 100 g of seeds per bed is sown in
lines across the bed at a distance of l0 cm. Seeds are
covered with fine soil and mulch with paddy straw
/ dry grass (10 - 15 cm thick). Watering is done at
regular intervals to keep the surface of the bed moist.
Germination of acid treated seeds commences after 25
to 30 days of sowing. When average germination is
noticed the mulch materials are removed. The inter
space between rows is then re-mulched with chopped
paddy straw. Shade pandals are immediately erected
by using bamboo mats / reed mats or agro-shade nets'
The beds are watered regularly and weeding is done
as and when required. When the seedlings attain 3 to
4 leafstage, they are transplanted to secondarybeds /
Secondary nursery: Secondary nurseries can be
prepared in poly bags or in raised secondary beds. For
Tiller / stem
Capsules / spike 10 - 14 (10.9) 10 - ls (10.7)
5. Capsule
length (cm) t.s - 2.4 (2.2) t.6 - 2.8 (2.7)
6. Capsule
diameter (cm) r.4 - 2.4 (2.0) t.6 - 2.6 (2.2)
7. Seeds /3s.0 -s0.0 (42.0) 36.0 - ss.0 (4s.0)
8. Dry yield (kg
I soo - soo
9. Suitability Medium to high Medium altitude
Propagation of large cardamom is done through
seeds and suckers. The Propagation through seeds
enables production of large number of seedlings.
Virus diseases are not transmitted through seeds and
therefore the seedlings are free from viral diseases,
if adequate care is taken to isolate and protect the
nursery from fresh infection. Plants raised from seeds
need not necessarily be high yielders even if they are
800 - 900
Characetrs ICRI Sikkim- 1
deep maroon to
National Conference on Floriculture for Rural and Urban Prosperity in the Scenario of Climate Change-2018
Poly bag nursery, polythene bags of size 15 X 15 cm
with perforations at the base are used for planting the
seedlings from the primary nursery beds. The bags
are filled with potting mixture of soil, sand and cow
dung in the ratio of 4:1:1. The bags filled with the
mixture are arranged in row of one-meter width and
in convenient length under shade pandal. Seedlings
with 3 - 4 leaves are planted in the poly bags in April
- Muy and watered regularly. They become ready for
field planting in 10 to 12 months. In the case of raised
secondarybeds, beds ofsize 15 cm in height and 10 cm
width with convenient length are prepared and well
decomposed cattle manure is mixed with the soil and
an even surface is formed. Seedlings with 3 - 4leaves
are transplanted to the beds in May - June at spacing of
15 cm between them. The inter space is mulched with
chopped paddy straw or dry leaves. Over head pandal
is erected for providing shade and the soil is kept moist
with irrigation. The seedlings once attained a growth
of 45 - 60 cm height with 2 - 3 tillers are planted in the
main field during |une - fuly of the subsequent year.
Propagation through suckers
Selection ol planting material
. High yielding disease free plantations to be
. The plantation should be have high peld record
i.e. more than 800 kg / ha for at least 3 consecutive
. One mature tiller with two immature tiller or
vegetative buds is used as planting units.
Site of nursery
. The nursery should be about 500 meters away
from the main plantation to avoid occurrence of
pests and diseases.
. The irrigation facility should be available in the
. It should be easily accessible by road.
Preparation ol trenches
. The trenches should b e of 45 cm (l/z ft) width and
30 cm (1 ft) depth with convenient length & may
be made across the slopes of the field.
. Topsoil 15 cm(Yzft)tobekeptseparatelyfromthe
trench in the upside.
. Below side 15cm soil to be forked thoroughly.
. Dried leaves to be applied as layer in the trench
. Then the trench to be filled by top soil mixed with
cow dung compost.
. Spacing of 30 cm is required in between two
. The planting units to be planted at a spacing of 45
cm (l Yz ft) in between with proper staking.
Planting season
. Last week of May to fune.
. Thick mulching with dry leaf / grass may be
applied at the base of plant and watering may be
done during November to March depending on
the soil moisture condition.
. Well decomposed cattle manure maybe applied.
. The plot may be maintained with 50%o shade
under shade trees or using agro shade net.
. The disease and pest incidence to be looked
from time to time. Disease affected plants to be
uprooted and to be destroyed outside the sucker
. With proper management, a minimum of 5
planting units could be obtained from a single
Plantation establishment and management
Large cardamom is generally grown in forest loamy
soils having soil depth of few centimeters to several
inches. Colour of large cardamom soil ranges from
brownish yellow to very dark grayish brown. Texture
varies from sandy, sandy loam, silty loam to clay. In
general, large cardamom soils are acidic in nature and
majority of soils have pH ranges from 5.0 to 5.5 and
more than I o/o or ganic carb on content. O n an average,
these soils have high available Nitrogen and medium
Phosphorous and Potassium. Because of steepness of
the terrain, chance of water logging is less, and water-
logged conditions are not suitable for the plants and
adequate drainage is quite essential for the better stand
ofthe crop.
The ideal time for planting large cardamom in
Sikkim & other North Eastern states is May to |uly,
preferably during fune - |uly when the intensity of
South West Monsoon is low. By this time, the planting
materials i.e., mature tillers with 1 - 2 immature tillers
/ vegetative buds become ready. Due to appearance
of newleaves in the mother clump during this period,
symptoms of Chirke disease, viral in nature, becomes
prominent which helps not to collect such plants as
planting materials.
Selection of site: Large cardamom grows well
in forest loamy soils with gentle to medium slopes.
Luxuriant growth is observed nearby perennial
NationalConference on Floriculture for Ruraland Urban Prosperity in the Scenario o{ Climate Change-2018
water sources. However, water logged condition
is detrimental to the plants. It performs well under
partial shade (507o). Utis(Alnus nepalensis) is the most
common shade tree and Utis - cardamom is a very
good Agro-forestry system for sustainable production
in the region. The other species of shade trees are
Pan is aj (Ter m ali a my r i o c ar p a), P ipli (Buckl an di a sp.),
Malito (Macaranga denticulate), Argeli (Edgeworthes
gardneri), Asare (Viburnus eruberens), Bilaune (Maesa
Cheria), Kharane (Symplocos sp.), Siris (Albizzia
Lebbeck), Faledo (Erythrina indica), |hingani (Eurja
tapanica), Chillowne (Schima wallichi) etc.
Land Preparation: The land selected for planting
is cleared of all under growth, weeds etc. Old large
cardamom plants, if any may also be removed. Pits of
size 30x30x30 cmarepreparedon contoursat a spacing
of 1 .5 x 1 .5 m from the centre ofthe pits. Wider spacing
of 1.8 x 1.8 m is recommended for robust cultivars
like Ramla, Ramsey, Sawney, Varlangey etc. While
closer spacing 1.45 x 1.45 m is advised for non-robust
cultivators like Dzongu Golsey, Seremna etc. Pits are
left open for weathering for a fortnight and then filled
with topsoil mixed with cow dung compost / FYM @
1 - 2 kg per pit. Pit making and filling operation should
be completed in the thirdweekofMaybefore the onset
of pre-monsoon showers.
Planting: Planting is done in June - July when
there is enough moisture in the soil. A mature tiller
with 2 - 3 immature tillers / vegetative buds is used as
planting unit. For better production, quality planting
materials are to be raised in the nurseries or to be
collected from certified nurseries. Suckers / seedlings
are planted by scooping a little soil from the centre of
the pits and planted up to collar zone. Deep planting
should be avoided. Staking is needed to avoid lodging
from heary rain and wind and mulching is done at the
plant base.
Soil base making and mulching: Deep well
drained soils with loamy texture, medium availability
of phosphorous and potash, and with pH are best
suited. Usually the soil is rich in organic matter and
nitrogen as the plants are cultivated under alder trees
and other local varieties of trees. A soil base with
gentle slope from the plant is beneficial for application
of inputs to the plants viz., FYM, vermicompost, etc.
If the land is not terraced, soil base may be made by
cutting top soil from the upper half & to be placed on
the lower half followed by mulching. Mulching at the
plant base with easily degradable organic materials is
good for conserving both moisture and soil. Mulch
improves the soil condition and the soil fertility.
Dried organic matter, leaves, weeds etc can be used as
mulching materials.
Application of manure: For sustainable good
yield and to compensate the nutrient loss from the
soil, replenishment of nutrients is very essential. Well
decomposed cattle manure / compost or organic
products @ 5 kg / plant and at least twice in a year in
April - May and October - November are beneficial. If
all the crop residues are recycled in the plantation and
FYM / Organic materials etc are applied.
Vermicomposting: A source of nutrients,
particularly in the beds, which is becoming gradually
popular, is vermicomposting. Many NGOs and
private entrepreneurs have taken up vermicomposting
Watering / irrigation: Large cardamom plants
cannot thrive well under water stress conditions. In the
first year of planting watering is required at least once
in 10 days during dry months in October to March for
better growth in coming months. It is observed that
productivity is higher in plantations where irrigation
is provided. Depending on availability of water
sources hose or sprinkler or flood irrigation through
small channels is advised. Water harvesting pits made
in between four plants of nearby rows during rainy
season can support the water requirement of the crop
in the dry season to some extent and is cheap.
Shade management: It is noticed that heavy shade
or less shade hinders crop growth and production.
About 5070 shade is found ideal. The lopping of
branches of shade trees is very important and should
be done before onset of monsoon during |une - July.
But at the same time over-exposure to direct sunlight
causes yellowing of leaves. Therefore, judicious shade
management is very important for good growth,
timely flowering and for better crop.
Weed control: Weed control in the plantations
is the important operation for maximum utilization
of available soil moisture and nutrients by the plants.
Three rounds of weeding are required for effective
control of weed growth in initial two to three years.
Weeding is generally done by using a sickle or by
hand depending upon the intensity of weed growth.
From around the plant base weeds are pulled out by
hand and in inter-space needs only slash with sickle.
Clean weeding is not advised as the crop is found to
be a good colonizer. While weeding dried shoots and
other thrashed materials are used as mulch around
the plant base which will help to conserve moisture in
the ensuing dry months, cover the exposed roots and
prevent weed growth around the plant base. During
flowering period, the thrashed materials should not
cover the infl orescences.
Pollinators of large cardamom: The bumble bee,
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